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Dave Pallone on gay men's HIV awareness

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Yesterday was National Gay Men's HIV Awareness Day, and in recognition of that we welcome guest blogger Dave Pallone, former MLB umpire.

A lot of things have changed for LGBT community, since I publicly came out in June, 1990. Most of these changes are for the better. As a country, we have a ways to go in terms of achieving full equality for gays, lesbians and transgendered citizens, but huge strides have been made in terms of fighting discrimination and gaining acceptance. Homophobia is still a major problem in the US and in major league baseball - just look at how many professional baseball players are "out!" NONE!! However, as I travel the country giving talks at corporations, universities and conferences, I see that LGBT people are living freer, more open lives than ever before.

Unfortunately, some of the most important things have not changed at all. Gay and bisexual men are still severely impacted by HIV and AIDS. Almost half of the people with HIV/AIDS in the US are gay or bisexual men. More importantly, the number of HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men is rising every year. Gay and bisexual men are the only demographic where this is happening.

So I'm writing this blog post, in observance of Gay Men's HIV Awareness Day, in order to raise awareness for this issue. There are a lot of reasons why gay men are more affected by HIV/AIDS than any other demographic: a lot of guys are unaware of their HIV status, so they transmit the disease without knowing it. Some of the younger generation thinks that HIV is a "manageable" disease. Also, homophobia and stigma prevent people from getting access to HIV prevention services. As someone who had a career in professional baseball, I understand how hard it is to face discrimination in both your workplace and your community. We can't let these challenges stop us from living healthy and full lives. So we need to get the word out, take action to protect ourselves and our partners, and reach out to our gay brothers to let them know we care.

What can you do to help out?

o If you're unsure of your HIV status, get tested (for nearby testing locations sites, visit www.HIVtest.org). Also, encourage your friends to get tested

o Talk with your friends about HIV; share your own experiences and stories by posting on our Facebook page.

o Update your Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter site with an Awareness Day message:
"I know my status. Do you? Check out http://tinyurl.com/updateyourstatus"
"28,700 gay men were diagnosed with HIV last year. Get the facts at http://tinyurl.com/updateyourstatus"

o Learn more about HIV/AIDS at the web pages of the National Association for People With AIDS, the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the CDC.

o Visit our Facebook page for information & insights from Perez Hilton, Kenneth Cole, former NBA player John Amaechi, Noah's Arc cast member Doug Spearman, and more.

As an umpire I used to say "I'm not always right but I'm never wrong!" Well, I am not wrong about this!! Get tested! Know your status! Step up to the ‘plate' and do the right thing for you, your partner and your community.